The debate on how best to utilise flexible work laws and paid parental leave continues to rage in Australia, but it appears there are big changes on the way for Britain’s working parents.
Britain’s deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has unveiled new plans for flexible work that will allow parents to decide for themselves how best to divide a year’s parental leave.
Claiming the current workplace rules “made sense in the 1950s”, Clegg says women’s professional development is hindered based on “clapped-out rules” and that the reform will encourage women back into the workforce as a key to economic recovery.
“We, as a society, we have got so much better at telling young women the sky’s the limit. Get a job; be independent; be the boss; run as far and as fast as your talents can take you,” he said.
“Then, suddenly, when they hit their late 20s, their early 30s, despite all their earlier momentum, despite all the endless possibility, they are suddenly stopped in their tracks. It’s like a rubber band snaps these women back. Because, the moment they start planning a family, their options begin to narrow.”
Under the package of proposals to flexible work, parents will be able to share up to a year’s parental leave, with mothers taking the first two weeks.
He hopes the new rules will “drive a culture shift in the workplace” and stamp out the “stigma” attached to working fathers requesting flexible work in order to help with childcare.
Adoptive parents, who are currently only eligible for parental leave if they have been with their current employee for six months, will also be eligible for flexible leave at any time. Grandparents could also apply for flexible work to help look after grandchildren under the reforms, which are expected to take effect as early as 2014.
“This is a journey, a transformation of rules which have got stuck in a kind of 1950s time warp for far too long, and I hope that with today’s announcement we’re yanking these rules into the 21st century,” Clegg said.
“But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t – we shouldn’t – continue to campaign for further progressive change, which I am absolutely convinced will come with the passage of time.”
Earlier plans to extend paternal leave from two to six weeks were abandoned due to heavy opposition from business leaders who expressed concerns that the changes would damage the economy.
“I’ve accepted that extending paternity leave should be examined when the economy is in a stronger state,” Clegg conceded. He said the proposal would be reviewed again in 2018.